The Politicalisation of Hooliganism

by Kostis Papagiorgis

Notes on the Athens riots of December 2008


Athens, Photo by Alexandros Katsis

Athenians, confused by the extent of the looting, arson and general pillaging, are trying to calculate the political ‘bottom line’ and understand the reason why the old methods of rallies, protests and pavement opposition are no longer valid. No one can tell us how we got into this shameful situation where groups of unbridled youths – the future of the country, that is – set buildings on fire and leave charred property in their wake. We have had similar instances of vandalism in previous years, so the riddle remains: where does this uprising of the balaclava lead us?

Let us say something that is usually left unsaid: When young people are left to it, so they are out of control, they tend heavily towards ‘corsair’ behaviour. Destruction, or negation, constitutes a work of art. So amidst the general paralysis, and tolerated by the police, these youths have turned to ‘artistry’. It is so cool – a pure dream – to form a gang and engage in acts that defy the imagination. Apartment blocks up in flames? Cars reduced to scrap metal in seconds? Shop windows ground into sugar and banks smouldering like a fireplace? This is facile surrealism, and criminal behaviour beyond the scope of the courts of law.

And next to all this let us not forget the camera: the omnipresent television that magnifies every one of the horde’s demonstrations of power. Bringing down a shop window is not enough, you need to be broadcast as well, to get into every home, to gain immediacy — a feast for all eyes. Avenger, rioter with a moral right, arsonist but at the same time visible, nationwide, televised as a real danger. The politicalisation of hooliganism, a phenomenon of recent years, certainly promotes some unspecified, sinister interests, but aside from any moral concerns it is now a public danger. The phrase “night of riot by thousands of Alexises” makes no sense.


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